Statement by the Union of Belarusian Writers on harassment of the Union’s members
After the formation of the Public Association ‘The Union of the Writers of Belarus’ (UWB) in 2006, the Association’s management, assisted by the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Culture, together with their departments, have been taking numerous purposeful measures aimed at the suppression of the activities by Belarus’ oldest writer’s union – the Union of Belarusian Writers (UBW). The Union was evicted and deprived of state support. Works by the UBW members were removed from school and university curricula. The Polymia, Nioman, Maladosts literary magazines, as well as the LiM weekly, founded by the UBW, were handed over to the newly-created Union. The Ministry of Education banned literary meetings with the UBW members at schools, universities and libraries. The writers working at state-owned enterprises have been forced to leave the UBW, founded by Kupala and Kolas, and join the newly-founded Union.
Despite the terrible working conditions, the UBW has survived and remains the biggest literary organization of Belarus. The newly-created UWB, having received all the possible preferences by the authorities (including the financing of its employers’ work), in the three years of its existence, has not been able to withstand the creative competition with the UBW, neither in the amount of activities, nor in the quality of texts, neither in quantity, nor in respect by the society. With the help of administrative resources and former bureaucratic connections, the management of the newly-created UWB launched a crusade against the UBW and its members.
In 2010, an unprecedented campaign of defamation and harassment against the members of our officially registered organization is underway. Both Belarusian and Russian-speaking writers, poets and critics have been summoned to state departments and forced to leave the UBW across the country.
The shameful and illegal manifestations of the campaign were registered in the capital and in the regions (the Litaratura i mastatstva magazine, the Mastatskaya litaratura publishers, the publishing houses of the National Academy of Sciences, the Belarusian State University, the Belarusian National Technical University, the Belarusian State Economic University, the Belarusian State Pedagogic University etc., regional universities, newspaper editorial boards, museums and schools). According to our information, the campaign was approved by the Belarusian authorities.
In the few last weeks alone, some 100 UBW members have addressed the management and the Council of the Union with a request to provide assistance in protecting their civil rights, guaranteed by the Belarusian Constitution and the Law on Public Associations. Specifically, administrative and psychological harassment has been used against a poetess living in the Chernobyl Zone and raising two children on a scanty salary…
This is an unprecedented mass harassment against Belarusian writers, unheard of since the Stalin epoch.
Considering the above-mentioned information, in pursuance of the provisions of the organizations’ Charter and referring to the corresponding Laws and the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, the Council of the UBW urges:
- to promptly stop the harassment of the UBW members;
- to provide adequate assessment of the destructive activities by the UWB management, led by M.Charhinets, which undermines the contemporary literary and social development, as well as the national culture in general;
Otherwise, we will have to apply for help to such international organizations as the International Community of Writers' Unions (Moscow), the European Writers' Council (Brussels), the Baltic Writers' Council (Stockholm), the International Association of Writers’ Unions ‘Word without Borders’ and other partners of the UBW. At the same time, we reserve a right to hold authorized public protests to protect the rights of the members of the Union of Belarusian Writers to work and membership in public associations.
3 February 2010